Oct 222014
 

gears-knowledge

Once again I’ve been having a “debate” with someone who is asserting that determinism and knowledge are incompatible. And once again I’ve been pointing out that all determinism means is that every event is causal, and that causality is actually a requirement for consistent and coherent thought and knowledge obtainment.

Most people who argue against determinism based on the thinking that people wouldn’t be able to think, learn, and obtain knowledge, never really seem to think deeply enough about what it takes to obtain these things.

In my book I thoroughly go over acausal events (events without a cause) as well as what they imply. And make no mistake about it, rejecting determinism is no different than saying “some events don’t have a cause” (which I have no problem with such being considered “possible” by the way). The problem is that many don’t recognize this. They seem to think there is some middle ground between an event having causes and an event not having causes. Perhaps such is based on a misunderstanding about quantum mechanics (where terms such as “probability wave” causes confusions). Or perhaps they have misunderstandings about what the word “determinism” means. Or perhaps they’ve just never given much thought about the fact that X having a cause and X not having a cause are in opposition. That means if one is false, the other is true, and vice versa. Continue reading »

Oct 162014
 

Kaku free will

As a philosopher who has educated himself on physics, I’d never try to argue physics with a physicist. That is, until such physicist moves from the realm of physics into the realm of philosophy! 😉

Then it’s simply time to correct some huge mistakes, even if that means delving into the philosophy of physics itself . The philosophy of physics is different than the mathematics which, as a philosopher and not a physicist, I don’t make arguments against (e.g. I’ll assume accepted mathematics and experimentation are correct, and just delve into the philosophy of what such implies if so).

In other words, someone who is deemed an expert in their scientific field simply doesn’t mean that they are brilliant at everything they do. When it comes to quantum mechanics there is the physics involved, but there is also the interpretations OF the physics. Such interpretations tend to be seated smack dab in the middle of philosophy rather than physics. And this often makes even some of the most well educated physicists come to some poorly thought out philosophical conclusions.

In this article I’ll be criticizing Michio Kaku, a very popular and respected authority on theoretical physics. He’s been in a number of “Big Think” videos on a number of topics revolved around physics. The below video is 1 minute and 49 seconds long shot many years back (I believe in 2011), and in it Kaku decides to talk about “free will” – of course delving into philosophy and meta-physics from his own philosophical perspective that surrounds his understanding of quantum mechanics. If you haven’t seen it please watch it here:

I do hate to do this to Kaku, because he seems like a swell guy, but I’m going to pick apart this entire video to see all of the problems spattered through a single 1 minute and 49 seconds of talking. Also to keep things in context. Continue reading »

Oct 152014
 

causal_point

Time and time again people express to me their feeling that if determinism is true and the “future is inevitable” due to this, that everything is “pointless”.  That for some reason us being able to freely will a change in the future implies some sort of meaningfulness that an entirely causal universe doesn’t have.

This, however, is what is called a “non-sequitur” in philosophical terms. That means the conclusion (e.g. “everything is pointless”) doesn’t follow from the premises (e.g. the universe is deterministic, the future state is a causally inevitable, etc.).

Just because the universe is deterministic, doesn’t mean that what we do is futile. In this earlier infographic I stressed the differences between fatalism and determinism. Both fatalism and determinism are incompatible with free will, but only one has a reasoned foundation. And only one is “futile” (meaning what we think, say, or do is pointless). In the infographic I made this comparison at the end:

fultility_compared-infographic

This distinction is extremely important. And it doesn’t just apply to “calling the doctor” but rather to the point of everything we think, say, and do…and how such actions causally lead to future outcomes. Rather than being “pointless”, our actions are very “pointed”. They are just causally pointed, which of course makes sense considering the absurdity of “uncaused pointedness”.

I’d also like to list a few common non-sequiturs (conclusions that don’t follow from determinism): Continue reading »

Oct 092014
 

Nope - We still believe in free will!

Recently a post came out titled “Belief in Free Will Not Threatened by Neuroscience”, first appearing on the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog, and then in Wired Magazine, written by Christian Jarrett.  Needless to say this article really does quite a job obfuscating and confusing the real “neuroscientific” case made by Sam Harris and others.

In it, and I quote directly from Wired Magazine online:

A key finding from neuroscience research over the last few decades is that non-conscious preparatory brain activity appears to precede the subjective feeling of making a decision. Some neuroscientists, like Sam Harris, have argued that this shows our sense of free will is an illusion, and that lay people would realize this too if they were given a vivid demonstration of the implications of the science (see below). Books have even started to appear with titles like My Brain Made Me Do It: The Rise of Neuroscience and the Threat to Moral Responsibility by Eliezer J. Sternberg.

However, in a new paper, Eddy Nahmias, Jason Shepard and Shane Reuter counter such claims. They believe that Harris and others (who they dub “willusionists”) make several unfounded assumptions about the basis of most people’s sense of free will. (bold my emphasis)

What on Earth? Sorry, Harris’s primary neuroscientific argument concludes that  “free will is an illusion” – not that our “sense of free will is an illusion”. Yes, he goes on to say that even the illusion of free will is an illusion. But Harris uses an entirely introspective argument for this, such being that, in his words, “our sense of our own freedom results from our not paying close attention to what it is like to be us” which he elaborates on.

And I simply don’t know where he is getting that Harris or anyone else ever made this claim: “and lay people would realize this too if they were given a vivid demonstration of the implications of the science”. My challenge here is to have the person who has written this article directly quote Harris saying or suggesting such a thing. It is possible that I’ve missed it, so a quote would be nice. Also, even if they did realize it, that doesn’t imply they would drop the belief in free will based on that realization. Something Jarrett seems to be suggesting is being said as well.

In other words, Jarrett is conflating entirely different things: Continue reading »

Oct 012014
 

I’ve been seeing the confusion between two different “no free will” positions crop up a lot recently – Determinism and Fatalism. Needless to say these aren’t the same thing. I created this InfoGraphic as a helpful tool to help crystallize the crux of the differences between these two lines of thought.  If you find it helpful please share, spread around, or add it to your own site with a link back. Thanks – ‘Trick Slattery

DETERMINISM-VS-FATALISM-infographic If you liked this InfoGraphic and found it useful, please download and share it on your website (please link back to the original), on social media, email, etc. There is also a Dutch version here: Determinisme vs. Fatalisme InfoGraphic (DUTCH) Continue reading »

Sep 292014
 

Choice vs. Free ChoiceWords, words, and more words! The different ways people think about words and terms often gets in our way. A response someone might have to another who claims there is no free will is “we make choices”, as if such choice making is “free will”.

What must be understood, however, is the distinction between “making choices” and “making a free choice”. And the distinction here is very important. And the word “choice” isn’t the only word that is often conflated. Take a look at this short list for a few examples:

  • Choice vs. Free Choice
  • Will vs. Free Will
  • Agency vs. Free Agency
  • Decision vs. Free Decision

There is an extremely important distinction between each of these. Lacking free will does not mean we A) don’t make choices, B) don’t causally will, C) don’t have agency, and D) don’t make decisions. Continue reading »

Sep 262014
 

Spotted Unicorn and Free Will - BOTH FANTASY!

I made a digital illustration of a fantasy unicorn type creature (for the fun of it) and thought it would be fun to add a little free will silliness to it….since it is a “fantasy” scene after all. The original will eventually be going on my art website at TricksPlace.com – and it will be without the little free will creature and text bubble when I put it there. Yes, I don’t just do philosophy, I do art as well. 😉 Continue reading »

Sep 232014
 

Buridan's Ass - Breaking the Free Will IllusionImagine a scenario in which you open up the refrigerator door and see two different food items. In that very moment it happens to turn out that:

A) You only want one of the items

and

B) You desire each food item equally

In this imaginary scenario, there is nothing for B) that is weighing your decision of one food item over another food item. One isn’t more fattening than the other, one wouldn’t taste better than the other, there is no differences in texture, size, quantity, smell, or color that would make you decide on one over the other. The location of each food item is equally desirable – in other words, there is no food item sitting by the other that would cause a decision for one over the other. There is no psychological response to the one food over the other. One isn’t closer, easier to grab, and so on.

This thought experiment is similar to Buridan’s ass, a (so called) “paradox” in the philosophy of free will. Buridan’s ass, named after 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan, addresses a hypothetical donkey who is both equally hungry as it is thirsty. And when I say “equally”, I mean absolutely equal in every way possible. The donkey is placed in the exact center-point between a hay stack and a pale of water. It has no momentum either way, equally understands the existence of both, and neither is closer than the other (which this donkey does not assess one as closer than the other in any way – even mistakenly).

As the hypothetical goes, the donkey would both die of starvation and thirst since it cannot make a rational decision to choose one or the other. Continue reading »

Sep 122014
 

many-worlds-no-free-will

In my book Breaking the Free Will Illusion, I have a chapter titled “Quantum Misunderstandings and Contrivances”. In it I touch upon the fact that in quantum mechanics (which addresses the smallest particles and their behavior) there are numerous “interpretations” surrounding what certain experiments show, and surrounding the mathematics used to describe this scale. These interpretations are rightly called “quantum interpretations”, and they compete with each other. Some are deterministic (meaning entirely causal), others are indeterministic (meaning some events don’t have causes), and others are agnostic on whether all events have a cause or not.

The fact of the matter is, we just don’t know which interpretation is the best model of reality. They each have their unintuitive problems. Regardless of this, I delve into why none of them can help grant free will.

One of these interpretations, however, is so un-evidentary that it really can’t be taken too seriously. Yet I’ve come across many occasion when someone will invoke this interpretation as a savior of free will.  The interpretation I’m talking about is called the many-worlds interpretation (also known as many-universes or many-histories interpretation). Though all of the interpretations are speculative, this interpretation speculates on “worlds” that are impossible to prove. A huge no-no in science.  But worse than that, not only does it not grant free will, but out of all of the processes it is the most fatalistic. Continue reading »

Sep 052014
 

Some people ask why free will doesn’t exist. They often don’t even know the very basics to these questions (or where to look to find answers). Point them to this InfoGraphic so they can get a quick visual snapshot (and then hopefully they will look into the matter more). Feel free to download and share this InfoGraphic (please do not alter it) on any website , social media, and so on. And please educate people in this important topic!

Why there is NO FREE WILL - InfoGraphic

Above is the official “basics” to why free will doesn’t exist. Of course the basics don’t entail all of the details, but such is a “snapshot” for why free will doesn’t exist to give newbies to the topic a “jumpstart”. It gives a quick overview of the definition of free will that is of importance, and why such ability is impossible. It explains that such is logically incompatible for both determinism and indeterminism, and the parts of the ability that are problematic. It also gives a brief summary of those huge topics that the belief in free will embeds itself into.

I give anyone permission to download, use, and share this InfoGraphic in it’s unaltered state. I’d appreciate a link back to this page or website if at all possible.

If you haven’t ordered your copy of Breaking the Free Will Illusion for the Betterment of Humankind, do so today! It’s in Kindle and paperback versions. And if you like what’s in it (which I think you will), I’d be grateful for a review on Amazon.com.

Thanks,

‘Trick